We’re quickly approaching the last day before Harvard Crimson forward Jimmy Vesey can sign with any team of his choosing. The Buffalo Sabres hold his exclusive negotiating rights through Monday because of a June trade with the Nashville Predators. TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reports that there have been some last minute talks between the Sabres and Vesey. Still, both the player and his agent, Peter Fish, have maintained their desire to reach free agency.
That said, let’s take a look at which teams are said to be in the running, and what kind of fit they can provide.
- Boston Bruins: The Bruins have been named as a potential suitor for a long time now. While more recent reports suggest they may not be serious contenders, there’s reason to think they’d be of interest to Vesey. Vesey is a Massachusetts native, and his father Jim was briefly a Bruin. Despite missing the playoffs in consecutive years, few think the Bruins are a bad team. They could reasonably provide a strong shot at contention if other prospects contribute right away. One impediment is in his position. With Brad Marchand, Ryan Spooner, and Matt Beleskey at left wing, Vesey wouldn’t necessarily have to disappoint to end up on the fourth line quickly.
- Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres hold his rights for at least the next several hours, and as mentioned above, they’re still negotiating. They also have a group that’s fairly young, and their best players will peak with Vesey. Sabres forward Jack Eichel has been playing with and recruiting Vesey all summer. There’s a lot to like about the situation in Buffalo. The problem is that it raises questions about why he has not yet signed. It’s not unfair to wonder if he already has a location in mind. If the Sabres haven’t convinced him yet, it’s hard to imagine the ability to hear out rivals will help their cause.
- Chicago Blackhawks: Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has reportedly been watching Vesey much of the summer. The team is perhaps the most intriguing suitor for Vesey. They’re constant contenders, with three Stanley Cups this decade, and have a hole at left wing on their top line. Assuming Artemi Panarin will stay on the second line with Patrick Kane, consider the sales pitch. If you win a left wing spot fought over mostly by rookies, you could start the season on a line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Not a bad way to start your career. It’s not every day a team can offer both an easier path to ice time and a more serious chance to win.
- New Jersey Devils: A recent addition to the Vesey discussion, the Devils stand out among the suitors. They’re not a recent contender, a huge market, in any way connected to him, or in particular need of a left wing. But maybe that’s why it makes sense. Fish told PuckDaddy’s Josh Cooper that Vesey likes to be under the radar. New Jersey is a calmer market, having less media. With Taylor Hall and Mike Cammalleri at left wing, nothing will be handed to him. If he underachieves in New Jersey, he goes and learns what he needs to in the minors. If he underachieves in Chicago, he’s dragging down a Cup contender in one of America’s largest cities.
- New York Rangers: Giving us a reason to take what agents say with a grain of salt, Fish also wondered aloud about the New York Rangers. Speaking to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Fish said “it’s special playing in the Big Apple.” Agents want every team to think they have a chance, or fans to, out of hopes it will drive the bidding war. Sometimes they’ll contradict themselves to achieve this. That said, the Rangers have never had a problem recruiting free agents. They do, however, run into the same problems other listed teams do. With Rick Nash and Chris Kreider both at left wing, there’s not an obvious open spot. This likely won’t stop them from bidding, because at Nash’s age, you can’t take anything for granted.
- Toronto Maple Leafs: The original suitor for Vesey, many NHL fans originally heard of him through rumors surrounding the Leafs. Mentioned as a potential favorite in almost every report, the Maple Leafs drafted his brother Nolan in 2014, and employ his father as a scout. As a rebuilding team, they offer many of the same age-related advantages as the Sabres do. The problem as of right now is that he’d have no idea what he’s getting into. While the only real lock to play on the left wing is James van Riemsdyk, the Leafs gave solid looks to all of Nikita Soshnikov, Brendan Leipsic, and Josh Leivo last year. They also acquired left winger Kerby Rychel from the Blue Jackets at the draft. Even if you write off the Maple Leaf careers of Milan Michalek, Brooks Laich, and Colin Greening, the organization is stacked with players with potential. Not even have would have to pan out to cost Vesey ice time. It’s not every day players with other options sign on for a tough fight to make a last place team.